In a judgment that would go a long way in healing the wounds of cancer patients, the Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the Centre to consider including cancer patients in the definition of disabled persons in the proposed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012, that is in the draft shape.
The directions came from the court headed by justice Rajiv Narain Raina on a petition filed by a Kurukshetra resident and brain cancer patient, Vibhu Dayal Sharma, who was denied admission in the bachelor of technology course by various institutes under the disabled category. The petitioner had cleared the All India Engineering Entrance Examination-2011.
Justice Raina said, "It is said that the law has always lagged behind and cannot stay abreast of the immediate felt necessities of the time. Once the law is enacted, amendments may take years. The most opportune time for knocking at the doors of the executive and legislature is now…"
The court observed that the proposed Bill sought to define a person with benchmark disability to have not less than 40% of a specified disability. It added that a person with disability meant a person with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with various barriers, might hinder his full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
However, amicus curiae (friend of court) in the case, advocate RS Bains informed the court that in the United Kingdom, the Disability Discrimination Act, 1995, provided that people were deemed to meet the requirement of disability without having to show that they had an impairment which had a substantial, adverse, long-term effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and included a person who had cancer, HIV infection or multiple sclerosis.
Justice Raina observed that though a great effort to replace the old 1995 Act had been made, it appeared to still fall short of the advancements made in the United Kingdom.
The court said that in view of the complexities involved in the process, it would not be appropriate to fix any timeline for taking decision by the Centre. "But would only hope that the matter is examined holistically for the attention it deserves before the new law is enacted replacing the 1995 Act to keep pace with the international conventions, United Nations declarations and charters on the subject to consider if it can be brought into domestic law and make it dynamic and ahead of times," said justice Raina.
Specified disability in Draft Bill
Blindness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, chronic neurological conditions, deaf, haemophilia, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, leprosy cured, locomotor disability, low vision, mental illness, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, specific learning disability speech and language disability, thalassaemia.